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Bowing Down in Martial Arts
Dr. Shehzad Saleem


Response: There seems to be a difference of opinion among Muslim scholars about bowing down before martial art fights. Some have told me that it is not allowed and that bowing of any form, whether at an angle of 9 degrees or 90 degrees, is an act solely reserved for the worship of Allah (swt). This is how it was explained to me: Islam is a faith where credence is given by action. Ultimate submission and humility is shown by lowering ones head to the Almighty. Hence it is an act, ceremonial or not, reserved solely for the worship of our Creator. The Prophet (sws) and his companions never bowed to anyone but Allah. Yes, in my style there is a ceremonial act of mutual bowing before a fight or routine. We also bow to the grandmaster before the start of the class. This is to show respect to the founder of our style of martial arts. However, the grandmaster is not present in class. We bow to his picture. That feels a little funny to me. What is Islam's view about doing ceremonial bows to pictures even if there is no intent of worship? You have replied that Islam does not object to ceremonial bows? Did you draw upon any references from the Qur’ān or the Hadith? I am curious. 

Comment: The basis of my opinion is common sense, which, I think, must be used in matters in which the Qur’ān and Sunnah are silent.

It is evident from the Qur’ān and Hadīth that prostrations which are done for worship to any one but Allah are forbidden. Bowing is just bending the head and can in no way be regarded as prostration. A ceremonial bow before a martial art routine is just a gesture to show respect. It is like taking off your hat to someone. On similar grounds, bowing to the picture of the grandmaster cannot be objected to.

A word here about differences in opinion seems appropriate: when you come across two conflicting opinions in some matter, weigh the arguments of both sides and follow whichever is more convincing to your intellect.


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